Volunteer Piano

New York City with Steinway and Sons

So it’s been just under a month since my amazing trip to New York City for part one of my training at the Steinway and Sons factory in Queens. The class was an action regulation and touch seminar. It lasted an entire week, thirty-two hours in total, and covered all of the mechanical processes from the point where you press a key until the hammer bounces away from the string. I was assigned a Steinway Model O grand piano that was fresh off of the factory floor. They have a saying: “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Steinway.” I had already learned the wrong way, and then I learned the right way, but now I know the Stein-”way”! This is a very select class; only four technicians from across the nation are chosen to attend each class. A special shout out to Steinway and Sons of Knoxville, American Piano Gallery, for this unique opportunity!

During the week long class, I had the privilege of taking an in depth tour of the Steinway and Sons factory. My favorite part was the action pounding room. A piano from the factory floor is put into a soundproof booth where a machine with 88 arms plays all 88 keys repeatedly for a day or more just to break-in the action. It sounds like a child just hammering away at a piano. Most people would not enjoy this noise, but it was music to ears!

Another interesting sight was watching the process of bending the rim of a grand piano, which is the typical shape we think of when picturing a grand piano. Several laminates of wood that are about 20 feet long had glue applied to them by 10 factory workers. Then they carried all of the laminates of wood over to a giant press. They bent and clamped the wood around the press a little at a time until the entire rim was clamped. This has to sit for a day for the shape of the rim to be set. To help this image, you should watch Note by Note: The Making of a Steinway. This is a very well produced documentary of a the making of a Steinway Model D concert grand piano from beginning to end, and well worth the watch!

It was amazing how much the Steinway and Sons factory felt like a family atmosphere: everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming, even to the two southern boys! I was wearing cowboy boots one day and a worker indigenous to New York asked, “Are you REALLY a cowboy?” If you know me, you can imagine that my sarcastic response was, “When I’m not tuning, repairing, and rebuilding pianos, yes, I AM a cowboy!” We all had a good laugh. Also, there are over twenty languages spoken within the factory so it’s not uncommon to hear someone walking throughthe factory happily singing a song at the top of their lungs in a foreign language.

And for those of you wanting to visit New York City, Queens was an amazing neighborhood. It felt like a bigger downtown Knoxville and was much less intimidating that Manhattan. Everyone was really nice and helpful, too! Oh, and FANTASTIC authentic sushi and turkish food! Our favorite food spots, though, were The Meatball Shop in The Village andBig Nick’s Pizza Joint right outside of Central Park! Gotta try them both!

Oh, and a little blurb on a BIG event in my life: I proposed to my lovely girlfriend on the Rockefeller Ice Rink, and she said YES!

Stay tuned for more piano fun facts, interesting stories, and enriching information for piano lovers of all calibers.